SALEM, Ore. – Salem police are issuing warnings and tips to residents after a string of recent groping incidents in the Salem area.
Police released surveillance video Thursday of one of the assaults in a parking lot.
A woman was leaving the grocery store the evening of Oct. 28, 2013 in Keizer. The video shows the woman putting her groceries away and the suspect comes up from behind her, grabs her, pushes her to the ground and then flees.
That woman's name is Emma. She talked with KATU News on the condition that we not use her last name.
“I don't think I realized until afterwards what had happened," Emma said.
“And I put my groceries in the trunk of my car and a man walked up behind me, grabbed me, pushed me down on the ground," Emma recalls from the attack. "As, sort of, I turned around to look at him and he pushed me down on the ground and then ran off.”
Emma says it seems this wasn't the first time he'd attacked someone like her.
“He, to me, appeared like he knew what he was doing," she said.
According to Lt. Dave Okada, spokesman for the Salem Police Department, there have been 14 of these incidents reported to police since late October. The latest occurred Jan. 12.
He said the locations vary but the assaults typically happen between late afternoon and evening.
And according to Officer Heather Day of the crime prevention unit, the suspect exhibits a pattern.
“The subject's behavior demonstrates that he is looking for the right circumstances, such as surprising his victim from behind while they are otherwise distracted, and then he typically flees on foot," she said.
Victims describe the man as young and skinny. He wears a sweatshirt with a hood.
Salem police offered the following advice to help people keep themselves safe:
- When out and about, keep your head up and make eye contact with passersby. Walking with confidence can be a powerful deterrent to a would-be criminal.
- Know the area where you walk and have an escape route planned, such as to where you will run if you are attacked.
- Make a commotion and yell for help. Never be embarrassed to cause a ruckus to get the attention of others for assistance.
- You have a right to protect yourself from an attack. Don't be afraid to defend yourself.
- Trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Leave the situation and call for help.
- Be a good witness. Use all of your senses to gather information about the attacker. The more details you can provide to the police, the more likely it is we can apprehend the suspect.
Click on the map below for a full-sized pdf of where 12 incidents occurred between October 2013 and January 2014.